The New York Times is still beating the war drums in Libya. The Times today urged President Obama to renew air attacks on Col. Qaddafi’s ground forces with U.S. A-10 antitank aircraft and AC-130 ground attack gunships. It also recommended arming the rebels and providing them with training.
For a minute, I thought that George W. Bush or Dick Cheney might have written the Times‘ lead editorial today. But they wouldn’t be this foolish. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that Bush and Cheney would have considered arming and training rebel forces, some of whom are supporters of al Qaeda and whom had previously gone to Iraq in a jihad to kill our soldiers. Yet the Obama administration is still considering arming the Libyan rebels, even though we still do not know very much about whom we would be arming and the UN Security Council resolutions authorizing collective actions against the Qaddafi regime contain a total arms embargo.
We would need, I think, necessarily to be careful about providing lethal means to a group unless we are assured that those U.S.-provided weapons would not fall into the hands of extremist organizations
Nevertheless, as recently as yesterday, a State Department spokesperson, when asked whether arming the rebels was still under consideration, replied:
it is permissible to get arms to the opposition, and that’s something that remains on the table, certainly. We’ve never taken that option away
It’s also amazing how the Times, which savaged Bush and Cheney for prosecuting the war in Iraq that Congress had authorized, didn’t once mention in its editorial today that Obama should have sought congressional authorization by now – nearly a month after he ordered American military forces into the skies over Libya. Obama’s war has already cost American taxpayers about $600 million, with no end in sight.
Obama’s failure to seek congressional authorization as the war drags on is even more amazing, considering that Obama himself had declared back in 2007 the need for such congressional authorization:
The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
The Times argues, like the Obama administration itself, that there can be no political settlement in which the “ruthless dictator” Qaddafi remains in place. But that is not likely to happen anytime soon if the military campaign ends. Although Obama and his minions have said repeatedly that regime change is not a military objective, Obama just co-signed a strongly worded letter published on both sides of the Atlantic with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy saying that leaving Qaddafi in power would be an “unconscionable betrayal:”
So long as Gaddafi is in power, NATO and its coalition partners must maintain their operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds.
But leaving another ruthless dictator in place who brutalized his own citizens - Saddam Hussein – did not bother Obama back in 2002 when he delivered his anti-Iraq war speech that he used many times during the 2008 presidential campaign to burnish his anti-war credentials:
I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power…. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.
But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States…
Neither did Qaddafi, once he gave up his nuclear weapons program in the wake of Bush’s decision to remove Saddam Hussein by force.
We have achieved the stated military objectives in Libya of establishing a no-fly zone and preventing a potentially catastrophic humanitarian disaster from occurring in Benghazi. It is time to let the Europeans and Arab League members who pressed for military intervention in the first place to assume full responsibility from here.
Joseph Klein is the author of a recent book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam